13/07/2012

World’s largest atlas acquired by the British Library


The Earth Platinum - the world's largest atlas, acquired by the British Library (c) British Library Board

The largest ever atlas is being unveiled at the British Library today, where it will receive official record-breaking status by Guinness World Records adjudicators before joining the Library’s world-famous map collections. The Earth Platinum atlas, one of only 31 copies in existence, measures 6ft x 9ft (1.8m x 2.7m) and required six members of Library staff to carry its 200kg weight through the doors.

The last atlas of this scale to be created is also held in the British Library; the Klencke atlas, which is exceeded by the Earth Platinum by 30cm on each side, was produced as one of a handful of giant atlases in 1660, and was presented to King Charles II to mark his restoration to the throne. It was bequeathed to the Library in the 1820s as part of King George III’s map collections. While historic maps like the Klencke were engraved and hand-painted and by skilled artists and engravers, modern maps are largely produced using satellite data, meaning that when the image is scaled up as it is in the Earth Platinum, the Earth’s surface is depicted with an astonishing degree of accuracy and detail.

The Earth Platinum, launched by Australian publishers Millennium House, consists of 61 pages of maps, all of which are produced using satellite images and another photographic technique which overlays thousands of photographs into a single, seamless image. These huge images of our cities, coasts, poles, oceans and continents will provide an important historical record for future generations of Library researchers from a range of disciplines, providing an unparalleled snapshot of the Earth as it stands in the twenty-first century. British Library experts were among those consulted as it was being prepared.

Head of Cartography and Topography at the British Library, Peter Barber OBE, who wrote the introduction to Earth Platinum, says “The Library’s collection of maps is one of the greatest in the world, and the maps are important not only for their use as geographical aids, but also as mirrors of the cultures in which they were created. While the Klencke Atlas provides an insight into the world of British monarchs in the seventeenth century, and what they thought was important about it, the Earth Platinum will offer a reflection of what people of 2012 felt was worth recording about their very different world. It will be an astonishing resource for researchers in ten, twenty or two hundred years time.”

Gordon Cheers, publisher of the Earth Platinum atlas, says “The Klencke atlas held at the British Library has long been the inspiration for the production of the Earth Platinum, and so to have one edition held here to be used and enjoyed by scholars and map-enthusiasts alike is a real joy. We hope that researchers will learn a great deal from this landmark publication.“

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Notes to Editors

The British Library is the national library of the United Kingdom and one of the world's greatest research libraries. It provides world class information services to the academic, business, research and scientific communities and offers unparalleled access to the world's largest and most comprehensive research collection. The Library's collection has developed over 250 years and exceeds 150 million separate items representing every age of written civilisation and includes books, journals, manuscripts, maps, stamps and other philatelic items, music, patents, photographs, newspapers and sound recordings in all written and spoken languages. Up to 10 million people visit the British Library website - www.bl.uk - every year where they can view up to 4 million digitised collection items and over 40 million pages.

Established in 2005 in Sydney Australia, Millennium House is a specialist book publisher, producing illustrated reference titles in genres such as the sciences, geography, cartography, natural and general history, popular culture, and architecture. For more information go to http://www.millenniumhouse.com.au.

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